City Council leaning toward KC landscape firm for city hall grounds

Sunday, June 3, 2007 | 2:52 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The grounds around city hall, which are in the midst of a renovation and expansion project, are poised to receive a major makeover by a Kansas City landscape architecture firm known for using environmentally friendly designs.

The Columbia City Council is one step away from hiring Jeffrey L. Bruce and Co. to design the planned renovation for the city hall plaza and surrounding streetscape. An ordinance authorizing the move is up for a final vote at Monday night’s council meeting.

The goal of the project is to create a visual connection between city hall, formally known as the Daniel Boone City Building, and the historic Howard and Gentry buildings, which have undergone recent renovations.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the previous work in Columbia by Bruce’s firm stood out during an interview with a panel charged with recommending a landscape firm.

“He was principally chosen for their experiences with city plazas. ...,” St. Romaine said. Bruce and his firm worked with the city’s Avenue of the Columns Committee to draft plans — not-yet-implemented — to make Eighth Street more pedestrian friendly and a better overall downtown experience.

“There is a lot of potential to influence the Eighth Street and Broadway corridors,” said Bob Bushyhead, project manager for Bruce.

St. Romaine said the city hall expansion and renovation will be “one of the driving forces” of Columbia’s ongoing effort to revitalize downtown.

“It’s going to set the stage for what this north block of downtown is going to look like,” St. Romaine said.

Jeffrey L. Bruce and Co. has also done work on MU’s Francis Quadrangle and its power plant beautification project.

St. Romaine said he expects the firm to work closely with Chiodini Associates, the architect on the overall city hall renovation, especially in the area of green architecture. Jeffrey L. Bruce and Co. is known for creating grass and turf roofs for buildings, he said. That experience is of particular interest to the city manager’s office, which hopes for an environmentally friendly city hall complex.

Earlier this week St. Romaine sent an e-mail to both architectural firms, asking them to collaborate on the grass roof and to draw attention to it.

“If we’re going to put in a green building, we want it to be a showcase for the community,” he said.

In addition to the plaza and streetscape, Jeffrey L. Bruce and Co. would also assist the Standing Committee on Public Art in compiling a short list of artists to create public art for the site, Marie Nau Hunter, manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said. It is the first time that the committee would use a consultant in the selection process of art purchased by the city.

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